With his “American Crime Story” anthology series, Ryan Murphy is out to explore well-known criminal cases centering on important cultural figures in a new way. His next installment, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” continues the trend that “The People v. O.J. Simpson” set by opening its premiere episode with the 1997 murder of fashion designer Versace, played here by Edgar Ramirez.
“We’re telling the story backwards. The first episode deals with the literal murder, or assassination itself, and then we get into how he had that motive and why he wanted to do what he wanted to do,” Murphy says, noting the show will not only focus on the opulent life of Versace himself, but also of the man who took his life, the seemingly destitute but still obsessed with wealth Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss).
“It’s more than why he was killed. It’s why it was allowed to happen,” Murphy says. “We’re not just doing a crime. We’re trying to talk about a crime within a social idea. I think the word assassination has a political overtone, and it denotes somebody taking the life of somebody to make a point, and that’s exactly what Andrew Cunanan did.”
To that end, the show is designed as a two-hander for Ramirez and Criss in many ways, showing their similarities (both exhibit elements of brilliance and were capable of great things, but both obviously went in very different directions), as well as showing sides to them about which many did not know.
Despite noting that he is making a docu-drama and not a documentary, Murphy says he still feels a pressure to tell Versace’s story “right” and spent a lot of time and research to fill the show with details from the real designer’s life – everything from Versace’s favorite orchid to an “ashtray that he had designed that year” have been hunted down and incorporated into the set design, and many scenes are shot in Versace’s real house down in Florida.
“He lived outrageously and daringly. He was a disruptor, and his life was opera, and he lived that way. There are so many positive aspects to him. I love his relationship with his family, which we show. I think his relationship with Donatella, in particular, was particularly moving. He was very, very ill, and he had made a miraculous comeback very shortly before he was killed. I really admired how he had pulled himself back from the brink and kept fighting,” Murphy says, noting that many might not remember how hard it was at the time to be authentic and one’s self if he or she was gay.
“That’s one of the joys of the work – to really get it right. Because we cared. We wanted to do honor to him.”
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” will premiere on FX in January 2018.